A quilt is like a sandwich, with a top layer of fabric, a middle layer of batting, and a bottom layer of fabric, all joined together by your stitches. Binding a quilt means covering the raw edges of the quilt sandwich to give the quilt a finished look and protect its edges from wear. Binding is one of the last steps in finishing a quilt.
Five Quilt Binding Options
- Continuous strip binding. This is the method I use on most of my quilts, especially the ones that will be regularly handled and washed, because it covers the quilt’s edges with two protective layers of fabric, instead of one. Straight-of-grain binding is the easiest to make. For quilts with curved edges, you should make bias binding instead. Continuous binding can be machine-sewn to the front side of the quilt and hand-stitched to the back, but I prefer to attach it to the back side of the quilt with no hand sewing. The machine-binding method is much faster and easier for quilters like me who hate hand sewing.
- No binding (pillowcase method). Sometimes also called “birthing” a quilt. This is the simplest way to finish your quilt. Instead of applying a binding, you simply sew around the edges of the quilt sandwich as if it were a giant pillowcase, leaving an opening on one side that’s big enough to turn the “pillowcase” inside out. Once you turn the quilt right side out, you top stitch or blind stitch the open section closed. This kind of quilt is often tied with yarn, buttons, or decorative stitching instead of quilted in the usual way, because quilting might distort the shape of the finished quilt. I like to use the pillowcase method on doll quilts.
- Self binding. In this method, the backing fabric also doubles as the quilt’s binding. Self-binding is less time-consuming than creating fabric strip binding. It can also show off an especially beautiful backing fabric. The disadvantage: the binding is only one fabric layer thick. If your quilt will get a lot of use, consider fabric strip binding instead. To self-bind a quilt, you cut the backing fabric a couple of inches larger than the batting and top on all sides – large enough to allow for however much backing fabric you want to show on the front of the quilt (usually ½” to ¾”), plus a ¼” seam allowance for turning under the raw edge of the backing fabric. To bind, fold the backing fabric up over the raw edges of the quilt sandwich, fold the raw edge under, and stitch the backing in place on the front of the quilt, either by hand or by machine.
- Prairie points. Your quilt’s edges can be finished with triangular, folded-fabric embellishments called “prairie points.” While they require more work than ordinary strip binding, prairie points give a special quilt a beautiful, saw-toothed finish. The folded triangles can be nested or overlapped and spaced close together or widely spaced, whichever best fits the quilt’s dimensions. The prairie points in this photo are several different sizes, which makes the quilt look informal and fun.
- Ruffled bindings. When you want a frilly, feminine look, finish your quilt with ruffles. You can buy ruffled binding strips that are prefolded to make them easy to sew to your quilt.
For my next quilt, I’m going to challenge myself by making a prairie point binding, which I have never tried before. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Post photo by gina pina, Flickr.com.